I’m From Northfield, MN.

by Desmond Kidney

State Satellite overhead image from Google Earth 2022

Ah, first love. First heartbreak—and second. This story does not feature my fumbled makings-out while skipping chapel on the roof of the science building. This story is not about the boyfriend I acquired the night before Spring Break my sophomore year when slap-happiness and sleep-deprivation and a tickle-fight turned into kissing. This story will not detail any of the several straight guys I fell hard for, with gut-wrenching crushes that set down roots I could not bear to burn out without their help.

No. This was accidental. I was a senior, and he was a freshman. Telling it like this, it feels almost dirty—at least, in the way a reader well versed in tropes would expect it to go. Hell, my roommate was his new student week group leader. He’d arrived early for training and I moved back into the dorms upon my roommate’s return. So I was exposed to him sorta from the beginning, with a frisbee game that turned later—somehow—into a sword fight with my aikido buki. And that was how he joined up with the fairly-established social group that spent half its time in my room.

Well, not my room: I had the inner room of a two-room triple, and the common space was in my roommate’s portion. This is significant only because I spent most of that year playing DJ to study parties or playing video games in an effort to never be seen working (I wish I could still stay up until 5AM and not get jet lagged). That and because—while still maintaining he was straight—this freshman decided that my bed was his spot to hang out in the room. Whether or not I was in it. And when it became obvious that I wasn’t threatening and was contact-friendly, he became positively cuddly.

Some of my friends refer to this phase of things as The Longest Coming Out Story Ever, and it happened with all of the drama one might expect of these things. After all, coming out to yourself is hard, particularly if you’re a bit tightly strung and a bit repressed. So that happened, and somewhere in that fall we kissed as if it were an impossible thing. And while trying to resist reeked strongly of cradle-robbing, I got mugged in a dark alleyway by the cradle.

Winter break resulted in an official status delayed pending the end of break—this is one of those things it’s better to do in person. The best reception I’ve ever had at an airport was when I walked out of security into baggage claim and was nearly bowled over by this tall, skinny, adorable guy who leapt to hug me. My friend Matt chauffeured us down to school, studiously—almost pointedly—ignoring us as we made out in his back seat. Then we had to kick him out of my dorm room.

The relationship had a built-in expiration date, but we ignored that quite effectively as we cuddled our way across campus. We reached sickening heights of cute, and delayed discussion of what would happen to us when I graduated. It got harder to do, but in our bliss, we managed. Eventually, the last day arrived, and I broke down on the sidewalk outside his dorm as Matt drove him to the airport. We’d broken up by necessity, and not because either party really wanted it—that was what hurt the most.

Still head-over-hopeless for him, I spent the summer moping. We continued talking, through the infinite wonders of the internet. Sometime around my birthday the subject of trying things at a distance came up. We were both cautious about it, as I recall, because distance, frankly, sucks and pretty well everyone knows it. Young and stupid and desperate to mend a heartbreak in process, I jumped at it.

I went back several times that year to visit. The reunions were wonderful, and the departures always sucked. Somewhere along the line, physical distance became communication distance became emotional distance. He called me in tears one winter night, sobbing with guilt for having cheated on me—he’d made out with someone at a party. He hated himself for it. I brushed it off, although it did hurt a bit. We made plans for him to visit me for Spring Break.

Spring Break arrived, and so did he. I took time off work to show him around and to spend time with him. Something about my family made him uncomfortable. Maybe. To this day, I’m not sure what was up. The trip was not exactly a success from any standpoint. Among other things, this was when he gave me mono. I found out later that he’d cheated on me with another guy. The breakup, perhaps a month later, was by phone. After a tirade about my family, he realized his tone and told me I deserved better. I agreed, and hung up.

So there’s the end of it. The (second) heartbreak was the aftermath. You know the drill—music you can’t listen to for days or weeks or—for a handful of songs—months; friends treating you like you’re made of porcelain when you just want them to either ignore the obvious or else just ignore you; lots of existential moping and not knowing what to do with yourself. Also, in my case, there was the mono I’d mentioned, with an onset several weeks after the fact.

Knowing what I do now, you ask, would I go back and go through it again?

Absolutely. But I’d try to make the first break-up stick.

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